The first time I bled at the hands (or mouth rather) of my beautiful newborn I was already too tired to care. I had been in labor for almost 20 hours and just pushed out a 9lb 7oz miracle. I didn’t know what day it was let alone how to feel about this incredibly foreign experience.
This wrinkly, warm, beautiful new light of my life was suckling within seconds of being delivered. Since then, we have learned, laughed, and cried together during our breastfeeding journey. Here are five things that might make a new mom’s life a little easier during the transition…
It’s NOT Supposed to Hurt!
No one told me before giving birth that there is a right and a wrong way for a baby to latch onto a nipple. All I knew was that the baby had a mouth and it needed to be on my nipple. So I placed her near it and she immediately latched on. It hurt! But I thought to myself: I guess this is how it’s supposed to feel. FYI (for those of you that have yet to try breastfeeding), It’s NOT supposed to hurt!
In their advice about breastfeeding issues, thebump.com says:
“It’s normal for your nipples to feel sore when you first start to breastfeed, especially if you’re a first-timer. But if baby has latched and the pain lasts longer than a minute into your feeding session, check the positioning.”
That first pain for me felt like an intense pinching. I later learned that was because my daughter’s lower lip was tucked into her mouth while sucking when it should’ve been outside. This lack of knowledge left me with a painful right nipple and a mouth full of expletives during feedings for the next week as it healed. Teaching her a proper latch didn’t take long and we were off and running after that!
While that first experience wasn’t altogether pleasant, I feel lucky I was able to nurse right away. There are many mothers who have a much harder time getting the baby to latch in the first place. For any problems with breastfeeding, I recommend getting the help of a professional.
Find a Professional You Trust
Do not drive yourself crazy on Google!! My Lactation Consultant has been invaluable throughout my breastfeeding journey because I don’t have to second-guess anything she tells me. Nurses are great. I had some amazing nurses in the hospital that helped me with a countless number of things from conception to delivery. But most are not lactation consultants! Many of them said they were “Lactation Specialists” so I looked up all of the different kinds of lactation RNs because these titles were confusing to me:
As listed on UC San Diego Breastfeeding Education site:
- A Lactation Specialist (most of who I saw in the hospital) is required to have 16-20 hours of breastfeeding specific training.
- A Lactation Educator is required to have a minimum of 45 hours of training.
- A Lactation Consultant has the 45 hours of training as well but is required to pass a special exam for certification. They also attend ongoing training over time.
(All three levels of lactation nurses are required to be RN’s first)
There is a myriad of breastfeeding information that you can get online (like Lalecheleague) or from friends, but I trust my consultant above all others based on her training and expertise. There was even a time my OB/GYN gave me outdated information about “pumping and dumping” while on pain meds which caused me a lot of heartache before I cleared it up with my consultant.
Your Supply is Probably Just Fine
Like a lot of moms I know, there was a time (around two months PP) I thought I wasn’t producing enough milk. It’s hard to tell how much your baby is getting mainly because it’s going directly from you to the baby… you don’t get to see it marked in ounces like you would in a bottle. When your body regulates, and you aren’t super engorged anymore (which is what’s supposed to happen), you feel like you’re not making enough.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Most women make one-third more breast milk than their babies typically drink.”
When I brought my baby in to my Lactation Consultant and told her I was concerned about my supply, she looked at my daughter like she was confused. Once she had weighed her and did the math, she told me my daughter had gained all the weight she should plus 1lb. She explained that she knew right away my baby was well nourished because she’s a chunky butt! (I’m paraphrasing). I was too close to the situation to see how ridiculous it must have seemed. It was such a relief to hear a professional say I was doing alright, and I’m happy I asked.
Things like severe dehydration, medications, certain medical conditions, and malnutrition CAN effect milk supply but unless your pediatrician says there’s something wrong… you’re probably doing fine mama!
It Might Cause More Frustration (and Tears) Than You Expected
One thing I worried about since day 1 was what would happen when my daughter’s teeth made their debut. In the hospital, a nurse said, “Wow, look at her chomp! Be glad she doesn’t have teeth!” I was glad, but that started the wheels of anxiety turning (Thanks, lady). Lucky me, we got our first jagged little chompers at three months! This certainly complicated things in all aspects of our lives, but especially in the boob department.
This wild little mongoose girl of mine can be particularly frustrating in several ways when she’s nursing:
- Unlatching and re-latching every few seconds
- Throwing her arm up and arching back like she’s a bull
- Causing a letdown and then unlatching so it gets all over the place!
- Grabbing my skin ‘til I bruise
- Pulling her socks off
Then add the electric bee sting of tiny teeth and we’ve got quite a party during mealtime. The frustration can be extreme and has even caused me to go to a bottle of formula a few times. We’ve both sat there and cried after a good biting.
Her: because I scared her when I yelled out.
Me: because it hurt and I’m so sleep deprived!
My natural reaction of yelling out in pain is actually one of the best deterrents for her biting. It startles her and it interrupts her eating which reminds her not to bite.
There Are Some REAL Positives
It can be so challenging at times that I have to remind myself why I’m doing it. There are websites full of lists of the beautiful things breastfeeding does for both baby and mother. They list immune benefits, optimum nutrition, lower risk of SIDS, stronger bones, a higher IQ, and of course extra calorie burning for mom. There are LOTS of benefits, but here are my personal benefits that I will remember forever:
Bonding: The times we spend cuddled together in the cushy recliner in her room while we rock at night. Since night time is the only time she’s really still, it’s a rare moment of calm we have together in sleepiness.
“The face”: This is what my husband and I call it. It is a completely satisfied, adorable, milk drunk face our daughter makes just after breastfeeding. She closes her eyes and makes a wide, flat little smile that warms my heart every time.
My Secret Weapon: No matter what is happening (shots, a bump on the head, gas pains) nursing seems to make it better. It is her preferred source of food no matter what else is available. It’s like I have a kind of super power and only I can make her feel so comforted.
Even with all of its challenges, I’m so happy I decided to breastfeed. I’m not going to say there aren’t days I hate it and want to quit. There are days I wish they could give me that prescription for Valium for my back spasms without it harming my baby. There are days I wish I could go to dinner with my husband and I could be the one that needs to be driven home. There are even days I just want to put on a pretty bra or a shirt that isn’t nursing-friendly.
The day will come when I am able to do all of the things I’ve been missing while breastfeeding. When It finally does come… I know I’ll miss this connection with her. So I’m trying to cherish the little moments we have together while nursing. I’ll never forget this time in our lives and I know I’ll never fully appreciate it until it’s gone.
Featured Image: Edited from Jordan Whitt- Unsplash